First: Fresh off their first PAC-12 Championship in nine years, #8 USC (11-2) has earned the right to play #5 Ohio State (11-2) in this year’s Cotton Bowl, hosted in Dallas. It is sure to be a tough fight for the Trojans, and the way I see it, their defense will be the difference. If they can manage some stops in critical moments against the high-powered OSU offense, the law offices of ‘Darnold & Jones’ are sure to put some points on the board for USC.
Second: I owe Clay Helton a legitimate apology, as I did not think he would keep his job through the year, and here #8 USC stands playing the #5 Buckeyes in the Cotton Bowl.
Third: The question of whether or not ‘The Trojan Horse’ Sam Darnold will leave for the NFL remains supremely intriguing. On one hand, there are millions of dollars to be made as a pro quarterback, private jets, and jacuzzis for as far as the eye can see. While on the other hand USC is bringing enough talent back next year to compete for a national championship. You do your own math, but I think he stays, just to watch ‘The Rosen One’ become a Cleveland Brown while he takes a shot at USC immortality.
Fourth: In losing their respective conference championship games, #13 Stanford (9-4) and #15 TCU (10-3) meet in the Alamo Bowl, played in San Antonio. Both are quality squads who were each one or two wins away from a much more consequential finale. That being said this will be a top-tier football game, featuring two strong teams, and two elite coaches (Shaw & Patterson).
Fifth: Stanford fans are only left to wonder what could have been, had Bryce Love not suffered the severe high ankle sprain that he did versus Oregon, and played half of the season on one leg. On that note, I still feel that he should have won the Heisman on heart and selflessness alone.
Sixth: #11 Washington (10-2) faces #9 Penn State (10-2) in the 2017 Fiesta Bowl, a game played annually in the Arizona Cardinals’ beautiful home stadium. The Huskies are another team coming off a ‘what could have been’ type season, but still have a fine opportunity to prove themselves in the end against a formidable Big-10 foe. Penn State has to feel the same way after their strong start, however, ending up in the Fiesta Bowl is never a bad year.
Seventh: Though Penn State junior running back Saquon Barkley (199 rushes / 1,134 yards / 16 TD’s) was an early frontrunner for the Heisman trophy, it was Washington junior running back Myles Gaskin (208 rushes / 1,282 yards / 19 TD’s) who quietly had the more productive season on the ground between the two.
Eighth: The #18 Washington State Cougars (9-3) travel to “America’s Finest City” to meet the #16 Michigan State Spartans (9-3) in this year’s Holiday Bowl. While San Diego is an absolute win in terms of Bowl destinations, ‘The Pirate’ Mike Leach still has to be feeling like he walked the plank in The Apple Cup vs. UDub a few weeks back, losing 41-14 in a game that would have given his team the PAC-12 North Title. No matter. “Stay classy San Diego.”
Ninth: Oregon (7-5) played #25 Boise State (10-3) Saturday in the Las Vegas Bowl, played in Des Moines. Kidding, of course. The game turned out to be a very interesting match-up, as Ducks big-play sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert (113-170 passing / 1,750 yards / 13 passing TD’s / 5 rushing TD’s / 3 INT’s) returned from injury. With him in the line-up, Oregon was simply a different team this season, and that’s a positive for the Ducks heading into 2018.
Tenth: Arizona State (7-5) plays #24 NC State (8-4) in the Sun Bowl, another PAC-12 showdown in Texas, hosted in El Paso. With the bizarre coaching turnaround for the Sun Devils, and facing a dynamic and underrated ACC challenger, I think ASU takes one on the chin here.
Eleventh: In the two un-ranked PAC-12 bowl match-ups, UCLA (6-6) plays Kansas State (7-5) in the Cactus Bowl, and Arizona (7-5) plays Purdue (6-6) in the Foster Farms Bowl. The Bruins are a three point favorite against KSU, while the Wildcats are pick ‘em versus the Boilermakers.
Twelfth: ‘The Sculpin Train’ was flying down the line during that PAC-12 Championship game, right up to the point that it flew off the tracks on a tremendous 4th quarter goal-line stand by USC. In any case, the fine folks at Ballast Point have been good to me, and I am going to keep ‘The Train’ rolling as it has been all season. By that measure, I will have a twelve-pack of Pineapple Sculpin on ice for the Alamo Bowl, and will be hoping for a healthy Bryce Love just the same. That said, please feel free to drop a note here on your favorite beers and cocktails that you and your home team will be sharing over the ‘bowling’ and holiday seasons. Cheers y’all.